Behind the Scenes: Quirky’s iPhone 5 Cases
Posted ago by Invention Ambassadors
Well makers, after several weeks of furious work by our engineering team and manufacturing partners, the iPhone cases developed at our 24 hour design-a-thon are being manufactured, and will soon be shipping to Fab customers around the world. The cases will be more widely available soon, so if you weren’t able to snag one on Fab, keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages. In the meantime, here’s an update on the production process for all six upcoming cases: we’re constantly amazed at the one-of-a-kind problem solving the engineering team cooks up each day, and figured that it was an experience worth sharing.
Folio is a multi-feature hard case invented by Ernesto Tan. As a first step in the post-design development process, we requested a white plastic off-tooling sample of the base piece from our manufacturer. When our engineers received this first white off-tooling sample, they noticed that the coloring of the case caused a tremendous amount of glare every time a photo was taken with flash. Having anticipated this problem earlier in prototyping, they fixed the issue by adding a circle of black paint around the inner lining of the camera hole.
The Folio design developed by QDS and the community used a soft material for the hinge of the wallet covering, which also folds over the headphone organizer. When we received the first off-tooling samples of the product, we found that we were not satisfied with the quality of the workmanship. The microfiber material did not look neat or aesthetically pleasing, and adhesive was visible along several edges and seams.
To address this issue, our engineers decided to create a mechanical hinge for the product instead. They considered how a right-handed user would hold the phone, and placed the hinge so that the user’s thumb could rest naturally. Our engineers made the hinge strong, yet small, in order for the user to have a comfortable grip.
When Laura Doty submitted her concept for Luminum, her intention was to protect an iPhone while also showing off the beauty of its design. To replicate the iPhone 5’s classic finish, our engineers decided to chemically treat the case’s aluminum by anodizing it for look and protection. For the first off-tooling sample, we anodized the aluminum first, before using a laser-etching machine to imprint the Quirky logo. However, we noticed that this workflow caused the aluminum under the logo to turn white, as the laser was cutting through the layer of anodization to reveal the lighter aluminum underneath.
This was not an aesthetically pleasing effect, so instead, we ended up running the laser-etching process prior to the anodization of the aluminum. This gave the logo a cleaner look, and kept the color of the aluminum intact.
Before approving the case for manufacturing, our engineers also had to make sure that our manufacturers were stamping out the anodized metal properly, to ensure that it would adhere the plastic base without any of the aluminum coming unstuck. If this were to occur, it would cause sharp ridges to appear, which could be potentially dangerous to a user.
Adam Pruden thought up Pli after studying the work of several mid-century modern designers. During the production process, our primary concern was that the wood veneer be properly glued to the plastic case. In order to guarantee the quality of the seal, our manufacturer used an automated press machine and a fixture to apply an extreme amount of pressure to both parts at once. This would ensure that the glue spread out evenly.
In order to stay true to the ideator’s vision, we wanted to pick the classiest wood available to us, so our design and engineering teams picked U.S. Walnut for the material of the wood veneer. Since this part of the case is made from actual wood, there will be some slight variation between cases, but we think that this adds to the unique aesthetic of the product. To put some finishing touches on the look of the case, we oil-coated the wood veneer, and made sure that the second off-tooling sample had a matte finish on the plastic casing. Our engineers also had the manufacturers play around with the power of the laser used for the engraving. We didn’t want to make the logo too deep, but we still wanted it to be clearly displayed.
This was a lucky project for us, because Don Darnell’s invention Keeper turned out exactly how he originally envisioned it. When the engineers got their hands on the initial prototypes, their first inclination was to adhere the wallet directly to the back of the iPhone case. However, they found that the adhesive was easily becoming exposed, and that a user could rip the wallet off quite easily. They needed to add reinforcement to prevent this from happening, so the engineering team decided to add 8 holes to the plastic of the case. This allowed our manufacturer to sew threads from the wallet into the plastic case for added security. The first off-tooling sample that we received from our manufacturer had a clear case which helped us understand how the adhesive dispersed throughout the fabrication process. As a final alteration after the first off-tooling sample, we had our manufacturers move the adhesive away from the edges so that it would be invisible to the user once manufacturing was complete.
Between the first and second off-tooling samples, we increased the length of the leather case, so that the top would better align with the top of the plastic base. This was done to limit the visibility of the stitching that attaches the case to the leather wallet.
In addition, the engineers chose to raise the button for the snap clasp, making it easier for a user to unsnap. They also decided to lower the slot location of the pockets on the inner part of the wallet. We noticed that it was difficult to pull a credit card out of this slot, because the card was not exposed enough for a user to grasp.
Chan Ho Lee, the inventor of Pegit, loves the way the product turned out, and our engineering team had very little trouble refining the design as well. When converting their CAD files into prototypes for the peg case and panels, their first attempt was a notable success. The first off-tooling sample we received only needed some minor adjustments as well. The engineers only had to dial in to the correct tolerance for the pegs and holes in the case, which would determine how difficult it is for a user to pop the panels on and off.
When testing a few of the off-tooling samples, we discovered that if a user bends the plastic case a little bit, he/she could easily pop out the panels. In order to get the hole size correct we relied on a “hand-slap”, which entails banging the case (with the panels inserted) against one’s hand to see if the panel pops out. If all of the panels stay in place, it would be clear that the hole size was set correctly.
Richard Moreen created an iPhone case that added functional by way of elastic bands. He wanted to quickly slip items into the back of the case for storage and easy access. After the design process was completed, we received the first tooling sample from our manufacturer, which was made out of two different materials. The inner core of the corners was made out of nylon, which was then covered in silicone. This allowed us to have a stable connection to the case, all while being able to stretch the bands as well. The next few samples that we received were all used to fine-tune the manufacturing process. If the temperature of the tooling machinery became too hot, the nylon embedded within the silicone would start to melt. Adjusting the tooling machines to the proper temperature at the proper time gave us the results we were looking for.